So you want to be an SEO…Top Traits of a Search Engine Marketer

By Michelle Doty | Apr 8, 2013
More Articles by Michelle


We’ve been interviewing quite a few potential search marketers at Search Mojo over the past few weeks, and it got me thinking about the traits that make the most effective search engine marketers successful. In this industry, it’s rare to find entry-level candidates with more than an anecdotal understanding of search engine optimization (and even if they’ve had experience, it might not be the right type of search engine marketing for us—all agencies are different), so instead, we typically look for an amalgam of ‘soft skills’ that we can build upon.

Search Engine Marketer Cat

Since I’m a Social Media Specialist at Search Mojo and don’t have the same day job as our Account Managers (although our roles naturally overlap), I leaned on my team members to help craft this list of must-have traits for the effective search engine marketer.

**Disclaimer, potential interviewees: do not see this as a comprehensive or be-all-end-all list; we LOVE talking to anyone who is excited about online marketing!

So with that, the top skills, as determined by the themes most oft echoed by our Accounts teams, are as follows:

Our VP of Accounts, Tad Miller, began with a theme that was echoed by each of the Accounts people I talked to, “I look for people that have both analytical skills and a marketer’s mindset. People that have good editing skills and have the vision to find errors within large batches of data are great.” Search engine marketers spend a lot of time in Excel analyzing data, so an affinity for this sort of work, and a passion for data-driven metrics, is a must. Junior Account Manager Heidi Kramer broke this down even further, “if you don’t enjoy analyzing data, solving problems and being strategic, SEO and search engine marketing in general may not be that enjoyable for you. We definitely need to be creative in our approach for each client, but it helps to enjoy strategy, data analysis, and the like; if you’re not a fan of data-driven strategy, search engine marketing might not be the ideal fit.”

And as an addendum to this, Junior Account Manager Nelson Hudspeth explained how important it is to “have the ability to break down these really complex topics into manageable chunks, especially when it comes to communicating with clients.” And as Tad echoed, when hiring people at the entry-level, we definitely look for those with strong communication skills—both written and oral. The ability to write emails and speak with clients effectively is one of the most important parts of the job.

Speaking of writing, our Content Marketing Manager Kari Rippetoe stressed the need for top-notch writing skills. “Writing is such a huge part of our jobs here at Search Mojo. We don’t just look at spreadsheets and reports all day – we write blog posts, landing page copy, ad copy, and anything else our clients require. You must love writing, and you should also know how to write effectively for different purposes, platforms and audiences.”

Casey Davenport, one of our Account Managers, detailed the need for a “scrappy personality… someone who is proactive and resourceful. The performance data that Google provides is ALWAYS changing, which makes it very important to be able to (and want to) stay on top of everything that’s out there and how you can best add that to your toolkit. For example, while encrypted search traffic percentages continue to increase and rankings continue to be so dependent on the individual and location, Google Webmaster Tools offers data on impressions, clicks, CTR, and average position. Where there are dead ends in some places, there are always opportunities in others!”

A HUGE personality trait that everyone at Search Mojo mentioned was adaptability, flexibility, and a willingness and capacity to learn. As Sarah Bonner, one of our Junior Account Managers, said, “since our industry changes so often and our clients are all different, in their goals, business models and needs, it’s SO important to be able to adapt and change strategy when necessary.”

Junior Account Manager Blaine Anderson expanded on this, “Successful SEMs need to have a willingness to learn. Truly learn. In order to do good search engine marketing for clients, you have to be able to learn what they are all about; what their goals are. You need to have a little bit more than a basic understanding of the work they do and the industry they are in (and the jargon of that industry as well). I’m not saying you have to be an expert, but you need to go beyond the basic facts if you want to be able to do the best work for them. Every client is different, and every industry is different, and it would be foolish to treat them all the same way.”
I love Blaine’s answer and think it was right on. I think what sets Search Mojo apart as an agency is our diverse client list, and our unrelenting obsession with getting to know every facet of their industry, every pressure point that they face, and most importantly, what we can do to help alleviate those pains and help them reach their goals.

And finally, Social Media Manager Sarah Lokitis detailed some of our Search Mojo specific traits, “I think people who are the most successful at Search Mojo have a really good attitude. We work as teams, and subsequently need to be dependable and respectful. For us, the work hard, play hard mentality definitely holds true. When things have to get done, we focus, but I love our relaxed environment and how much laughter happens in our office.”

Online marketers, are there any other traits that you’ve found particularly helpful in the search marketing industry? We’d love to hear them! Tweet at me @mdough_tea!

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